Thinking about skipping a visit to the vet to save some cash? You’d better think again! New statistics show pets are getting sicker simply because their owners are skimping on basic medical care.
Obesity, kidney disease, arthritis and cancer are all on the rise and the American Veterinary Medical Association says it’s because owners are not taking their pets to the vet for routine exams. We found a USA Today article detailing the pet health epidemic, so we reached out to our vet expert to find out what’s really going on.
Obesity is up 37 percent in dogs (and an astounding 90 percent in cats). Diabetes is up 32 percent and arthritis is up 38 percent. A whopping 60 percent of dogs have dental disease, which is highly preventable.
“People who bring their pets in for routine exams and blood work are far more likely to be informed of a disease earlier on,” Dr. Brandy Vickers of Avenues Pet Hospital says. “Those pets receive medical interventtion earlier and live longer, healthier lives.”
So how often should you be seeing the vet? The general rule is once a year for dogs under seven-years-old and twice a year for dogs aged seven and up because diseases are more common with older pets.
“Pets age five to ten times faster than humans, depending on breed,” Dr. Vickers says. “Subtle signs of illness are more likely to be picked up at an exam than to be noticed at home.”
The main reason for skipping out on care: cost. Vet exams usually run between $50 and $75 but many fear a diagnosis that could run hundreds, if not thousands.
But the longer you wait, the more medical care is likely to cost. If you catch a disease early, like dental disease, treatment is fairly easy and inexpensive compared to advanced dental disease, which can be fatal.
As well as you think you know your pet, you are not likely to see the beginning stages of a disease since animals often hide their symptoms.
“Dogs and cats are secretive about feeling ill,” Dr. Vickers says. “Once a caretaker notices a symptom that cannot be hidden, like weight loss or vomitting, the disease may be advanced.”
If you have a breed susceptible to developing disease or if you just want peace of mind, pet insurance may be the way to go. YDB has already detailed some requirements of maintaining pet insurance and compiled comparison data on some of the major companies. If you go the insurance route, it’s best to sign your pup up young so no condition is considered “pre-existing.”
If you choose to skip insurance, try to budget for routine care. Vet costs vary based on the cost of living, so there may be a broad spectrum of charges depending on where you live. But the vast majority of vets are not out to gouge pet owners.
“People do not go to veterinary school to earn a high salary,” Dr. Vickers says. “We go because we love animals. And as animal advocates, we offer the medical preventative or treatment plan that will best benefit a particular patient.”
Find a vet you trust and can communicate with, in case the price becomes an issue.
“If a financial issue or other issue exists that precludes the ideal treatment, we create a plan B to work within those constraints,” Dr. Vickers says. “If you feel uneasy about a treatment plan or costs, there is nothing wrong with getting a second opinion.”
But mainly, make sure your dog or cat is gettng the care they need.